2021 in retrospective

As we come to an end, I took the time to reflect on 2021:

  • As a manager, you don’t need to know the tech stacks to do a good job. When I joined Prolific, I started managing backend and frontend engineers. I have no professional IC experience in these areas. I was a bit nervous, because I am a believer of leading by example. Without meaningful experience in Python, I couldn’t be much hands-on. Instead, I focused on the lessons from Coaching for Performance and engineering best practises. This lead to good results across the engineers I was managing, while also expanding my toolbox as a manager. I am now much more confident about my ability to manage engineers.
  • On the same trend, my approach as a manager changed:
    • Identify X as being a problem.
    • Align with engineer(s) that X is a problem.
    • Allow engineer(s) to find a solution by themselves.
  • Context is important and I dropped the ball at least twice. I tried to bring a process that was quite successful at Babylon, without exploring if it would work at Prolific. The lesson is to learn from previous experiences and see if past solutions could fit the new problem. Rarely a wholesome solution is the right answer, but maybe smaller chunks can work. With that in mind, bring the engineers along in the journey. Presenting a massive solution on a RFC is the path of most resistance. I know this by firsthand. To make your life easier, schedule a couple of 1:1s and pitch the solution on a private setting. This get you early buy-in, but also allows you to tweak the proposal. There's also the case where the RFC has little value, if the feedback is generally negative. If you find yourself in that situation, bite the bullet and bin the RFC.
  • Changing a company’s culture is tough. It becomes impossible if you are not sponsored by higher-ups. I tried to do some of this work at Prolific, but I wasn’t successful.
  • I liked my first manager at Prolific quite a lot. I learned a fair amount with him and would wholeheartedly recommend him. People will stay in a company because of their manager. It’s the inverse of “people don’t leave companies, they leave their manager”.
  • Not picking roles based on a paycheque, is something I continue to do. They are not worth it. I am maximising for happiness and career growth. On the long term these are the most important factors. I have been approached for jobs paying 50% more than what I currently earn, but the role, product or circumstances always fell short.
  • While job searching, among a few other companies, Kry/Livi was the biggest disappointment. Both in terms interview process, but also with multiple ghostings.
  • I am still at odds between doing IC and management. The industry wants to put people in a tight neatly box, but I enjoy both. It’s one of the reasons why I try to be part of smaller companies, where roles are ambiguous and one does what is required.
  • Writing is a super power. Doing it consistently, with care and in straightforward way, makes me a better professional. To improve your writing: read and write more. Use hemingwayapp.com.
  • I met most of my running goals. I reached 2000km and 50k elevation that I set at the beginning of 2021. I ran 3 ultra marathons and participate on the Snowdon SkyRace. I have registered for the Dragon’s Back race for 2022. My solo goal for next year is to finish it in one piece. I also set a personal best on the 10k distance.